June 29, 2007

Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Waitstaff

I started working in the restaurant industry at the tender age of 17. I left the wonderful frozen yogurt industry for the lucrative career path of a Bennigan’s hostess. On my 18th birthday, I was thrilled, I could buy lotto tickets AND wait tables. Wow. A big day in a young girl’s life. I quickly trained and began what ended up being a 7 year career in the service.

I became a waitress at Bennigan’s and in the process of a couple years, moved to Dallas, quit Bennigan’s for the better paying Outback Steakhouse, and later moved back to Houston. I started dating one of the fellow bartenders at the restaurant in Houston. And quickly became indoctrinated in a full-blown party-all-the-time environment. This restaurant, as so many others, had a close-knit staff who would go to the local bar after work and then find an after-party at a friend’s house once the bars shut down. This time period is when I became acquainted with Whataburger taquitos at 3 A.M. and between those and the copious amounts of Bud Light, gained 20 pounds!

All the while, I continued going to school, working towards my Associates and Paralegal Certification. At the age of 25, I finished these degrees. A full 7 years after graduating high school. Shortly after receiving my certificate, I began my first paralegal job. I continued working at the restaurant for several months as well. I finally quit the restaurant business, but did not quit the party lifestyle.

The partying during my college days, when I did not have a day job, consisted of drinking pretty much every night, to drunkenness most nights. Missing classes because I didn’t feel like sitting in class for several hours feeling like ass. Going to work hung over. All my friends at this time were from the restaurant. We had our routine, go to work, go to our local Cheers, go to my then-boyfriend’s house, pass out sometime between 2 A.M. – 6 A.M. Get up, try to get over our hangover, go to work, rinse and repeat.

This culture is rampant within the restaurant business. It starts nice and easy, going out after a hard night. Once you start making friends with all your co-workers, it becomes a lifestyle. You get so attached to your friends and this lifestyle that it becomes extremely difficult to walk away.

If I didn’t have my dad’s pushing from the time I was a mere fetus, I may not have got out. Through my drunkenness, I knew that I had to finish college and start a better career path. One of my biggest fears, even now, is to disappoint my parents. Thank goodness.

I worked as a paralegal for 3-4 years while still dating that guy, still living that lifestyle. I slowly decreased the amount of partying. It is quite hard to work in a busy, stress-filled litigation firm while tired and hung over. The weekends were usually a free-for-all, but the weekdays slowed. This did not slow down the ex or my friends that were still working at the restaurant, of course. They just saw less of me.

Fast forward to that glorious day where I walked into Gallery and bought my furniture. This was such a pivotal moment in my life. I quit so many things that day. A bad relationship, many relationships with friends based solely on drinking, drinking to excess, hangovers, crappy self-esteem, empty pockets, and so on and so forth!

That day was 2 years ago. It really bugs me to know that many of the people I worked with and partied with 5-6 years ago are still there. Stuck in that time. One of my best friends from high school is still there. She hasn’t escaped that sickening treadmill. And although I try to push her out of it, she has remained. My ex, at 36, is still there. I know more people that are still on that track, than are off of it. How I, and they, survived so many drunken nights, and so many drunken drives, is beyond me.

I am grateful that I escaped. I don’t miss a bit of it.

(Couldn’t find a good one from Willie…sorry!)


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